Fort Wainwright teens make family collages during the recent Strong Bonds teen retreat Feb. 18. Three adult leaders and 18 teens ranging in age from 13 to 18 attended the one-day retreat at Camp Living Water outside of Fairbanks.

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Wainwright teens recently took advantage of a unique opportunity to prepare for their parents' upcoming deployment and have some fun in conjunction with a Strong Bonds retreat just for them.

While Strong Bonds, a unit-based, chaplain-led program designed to assist commanders in building resiliency in Soldiers and families, is not a new concept for Soldiers and families in the Army and at Fort Wainwright, a retreat just for teens is completely new, said Robert Auker, Religious Education director. "Most family Strong Bonds events have a child component and then teens help out but there is often no real focus on them. They are often an overlooked demographic so that's why this retreat was so unique," he explained. "This one was to my knowledge the first one that was from beginning to end all about the teens and all about predeployment."

Three adult leaders and 18 teens ranging in age from 13 to 18 attended the one-day retreat at Camp Living Water outside of Fairbanks Feb. 18.

The group played games, sledded and went horseback riding during the retreat but also tackled some of the important issues deployments bring up by working through curriculum including the "Five Love Languages of Teens" and "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Army Families."

They also put together family collages and then led their families through their experiences at the retreat during an end-of-event family dinner.

"It was a really wonderful dinner," Auker said. "We recapped what was talked about and it provided an opportunity for kids to communicate with their families what they learned."

The main issues teens focused on during the event were identifying their support systems, the emotional swings brought on by deployments, finding hope and encouragement, being proactive and adjusting to role changes during deployments.

Auker said the event was a huge success and he hopes to do another one again in the future. "I was very pleased and very encouraged especially from the feedback we received from the teens," he said.

The retreat targeted children of Soldiers from 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and was funded through the unit's Strong Bonds funds. Soldiers from 1-25th SBCT will deploy to Afghanistan later this spring.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16